Why buy containers that duplicate what you're throwing away?

Reusing Jars and Containers

by Tricia Goss


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You probably reuse some of the containers that food comes in from the grocery store, such as margarine tubs or the plastic lidded containers many brands of lunchmeat now provide. Did you ever think about the possibilities of other types of food containers, though? You could be tossing out handy containers that offer dozens of different uses.

Some of these containers have distinct features that lend them to even more interesting uses. For instance, grated Parmesan cheese containers typically sport a flip-top lid with two different sizes of holes. These containers are ideal for powdered sugar, when you want to top pancakes or brownies. Store baking soda in one to use as a scouring powder. If you make homemade seasoning mixes, such as taco seasoning or salt-free seasoning, store your spice blend in one of these so you can shake out a little or spoon out a lot.

Many condiments, such as mayonnaise, ketchup and jelly, are available in squeezable bottles. These containers are perfect for dispensing homemade pancake or waffle batter. Alternatively, fill a clean, squeezable ketchup bottle with jelly or mayo from a jar for the convenience without the added cost of a special bottle from the store.

The containers used for liquid creamers often have a flip-top or screw-on lid hiding a convenient spout. These are quite handy for drinking water on the go. If you have quart-size bottles, fill two-thirds full with iced tea, punch or lemonade and pop into the freezer. The next time you go on a picnic, pack a couple in your basket along with plastic cups. The frozen beverages will help keep foods cool and the drinks will be easy to pour without any mess.

Many foods, both dry and refrigerated, come in plastic lidded canisters. Consider the cans that hold powdered drink mixes, certain brands of potato chips, and coffee. Of course, you can use these to store craft items or cut a small slit in the top and make a piggy bank to hold your change.

Fill a can with some adhesive bandages, ointment, tweezers, gauze and alcohol wipes to create a portable first aid kit to keep in your glove box or desk.

Small plastic containers, such as yogurt or pudding cups, are just the right size for homemade ice pops. Fill about two-thirds full with juice. Cover with foil or waxed paper. Push a wooden stick through the cover and freeze.

Glass containers, such as pickle or condiment jars, have many uses as well. If you have especially large jars, you can use glass-etching cream to create custom canisters with descriptions on them, such as "Flour" and "Sugar." Use adhesive vinyl lettering or create a stencil by printing the text using your computer's word processing application.

Glue the lids of smaller jars under a shelf in your garage or workshop. Fill each jar with a different type of hardware, such as screws, nails, nuts and bolts. Twist the jars onto the lids for out of the way yet highly visible storage.

Remove the paper and any adhesive residue from a glass jar. Coat it with acrylic paint. Tie a matching ribbon around the mouth for a lovely decorator vase. Alternatively, paint it with a seasonal theme. A jar painted orange can quickly become a charming Halloween decoration when a black jack-o'-lantern face is added. A red jar with a simple green pine tree is just right for Christmas.

Make gifts from clean glass jars. Fill clean jars with your favorite "gift in a jar" recipes. Cover the lids with fabric and ribbon or print out a label using your computer. Drill a small hole near the bottom of a jar. Fill with a strand of tiny holiday lights coiled up the height of the jar with the plug end hanging out of the drilled hole. Pour fresh potpourri into the jar all over and around the lights. When plugged in, the small bulbs will safely and beautifully heat the potpourri, producing a lovely scent.

The next time you are about to toss an empty container into the garbage, stop and look at it with new eyes. Consider its attributes and think about its possibilities. Your trash could become your treasure.

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